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This is an entry from the challenge "Hide and Seek". I made a few changes. Hopefully it's better, although I imagine there's room for improvement.
No Fun at the Studio
“Ready or not, here I come!”
The old familiar words play in our memories of a childhood filled with steamy summer days. Sun-browned children, free from the bondages of school and homework, spending their days hiding behind trees, boats and under porches while the one unfortunate soul had the opportunity to hone his hunting skills.
This time, I was that unfortunate soul. I was not enjoying this game; the consequences of losing were devastating. Thoughts from “mommy failure” to kidnapped son flashed through my mind as I frantically searched for my two year old. “Have you seen my son? He has big brown eyes, orange-red hair and freckles splattered on his cheeks and nose. He’s wearing navy blue shorts and a blue and white polo shirt.” I asked one of the women working in the photography studio at Sears as I choked back the need to panic. I had dressed him and his sister in their Sunday clothes to get their bi-annual portraits and send off to grandparents, aunts and uncles around the globe.
I am sure I saw pity in her eyes, or maybe it was accusation, “No I’m sorry, I haven’t.” Perhaps she was too busy to show concern or move to assist this terrified mom.
“He was here just a moment ago!” I was beginning to feel exasperated--desperate for someone to take a moment from their life and help with my crisis. I have heard stories of children disappearing without a trace, few of them ever returned. I hated the idea that my child might join the ranks of children’s faces appearing on milk cartons and billboards with captions reading, “Have you seen me?” Panic rose, threatening to overtake me; I did not know whether to scream first or to cry.
After several moments, the department manager approached, concern showing in her eyes. “We’ll get everyone looking, Ma’am. Where was the last time you saw him?”
“Right here,” I choked back sobs. “I turned long enough to help my daughter pull a toy from the toy box, and then he was gone.”
My mind raced. I could imagine the police ripping my babies from my arms and placing me behind bars. I’d never to see my babies again. “You’re a failure!” A voice shouted in my brain. Isn’t that the truth, I agreed. I was a young mom, but I knew there were consequences for not watching your children. “You should have…” speeches played in my head.
Before long, the entire staffs of the photography studio and the children’s clothes department were searching racks for my son. Photographers scoured through their rooms, under tables, behind screens and behind camera equipment; they found lots of things, but no child. He was gone. The store manager came over, “I’ve called security and the police. Have you got a picture we can give them?”
My hands trembled as I fumbled in my purse looking for pictures. Where are they? I always keep pictures on me…
“Hey, who’s the kid in the storeroom?” A staff member returning from break pointed to a little boy in the employee storeroom where she stashed her purse.
We turned, and there was my son, playing with toys he found tucked away in a corner, meant to be used as props by the photographers.
“Mommy, look…a truck!” He exclaimed, eyes bright with excitement. He was oblivious to the frantic looks on the crowd of people gathering around him. Out of the storeroom he toddled, happily carrying a fire truck he found looking as though he won the lottery.
I was not sure whether to laugh or cry.
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